Previously: On faults, logs, and reconciliation
What is a Christian woman to do if her Christian husband continues in a destructive sin against her or their children, and has refused to listen to her?
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” Matthew 18:15-17
Her next step is to talk to her (and presumably his) pastor. As the undershepherd of the flock, he would hopefully have the spirituality, humility, and gentleness previously discussed to help bring this brother to repentance through prayer, teaching, and counsel. He has the responsibility of the spiritual welfare of the sheep, and so he would want to take this brother under his wing. The pastor also has the authority, along with the elders, to move the process from step two to step three, if the husband refuses to listen to him. Notice the women’s Bible study and the wife’s best friend are still not involved.
I truly believe Jesus proposed this solution to give the wife — or anyone else who is the victim of a destructive sin — recourse, since in this case the one who is hurting her is the one who is in authority over her, who was given that authority, not to hurt, abuse, or sin against her, but to bless and protect her. For God hates the abuse of authority, especially among those who bear His name, just as much as He hates divorce. This way the wife has an avenue of recourse which does not involve divorce.
The problem for American Christians is whether their pastor is willing to obey Jesus’ solution in Matthew 18. I think most pastors would be willing to take the process through step two, and pray with, teach, and counsel the brother (or sister) to help bring him to repentance. But I think most pastors would be unwilling to take the process to step three, and take the matter to the church if the brother remains unrepentant. I have lived in my local Christian community for 27 years, and I have never heard of it happening one time. I don’t believe that our Christians are so much holier than the Christians elsewhere; I do believe that most pastors don’t want the reputation of rejecting members, when the focus for most of them is marketing, and attracting members.
When the Church sins by choosing to not obey the word of the Lord in the matter of confronting sin, and following after holiness and the fear of the Lord, that may begin to explain the Christian divorce rate.
To be continued …
Update: continued in On divorce
I had a pastor tell my husband and I that if followed it through he’d lose all his biggest tithers. If I didn’t hear it with my own two ears I would never have believed it. I think this is true of many in the church. At least this pastor had the courage to admit the truth.
I totally agree with you. We are currently visiting a church. One of the questions my husband asked the pastor is about Mathew 18. He told us that in the short time he has been pastor here (over 3 years) he has applied it twice. That was heartening to hear and definitely made us consider this fellowship a little more seriously.
Well, I just wanted to encourage you that we attend a church where discipline is practiced. It is a wonderful thing when it is done correctly. It affects the body of believers but in a way that causes all of us to examine ourselves. We also have the privilege of welcoming the believer back to the body when repentence is present. It has happened quite a bit in the past 2 years but it has concerned public sin and needed to be addressed. The body knows that our pastor and elders love the church and would do anything to keep them from falling away. I rejoice in the faithfulness of our leaders.